This past Saturday, I died and went to a little heaven called the 2012 Vendy Awards. Held on Governor’s Island, a number of street vendor finalists from all over New York City served attendees in order to win one of the coveted prizes – People’s Taste Award, Rookie of the Year, Best Market Vendor, Best Dessert, and the Vendy Cup.
For a ticket price, attendees were able to eat and drink all that they could handle, and that they did – at least I did so, to the point where I had to take a quick catnap on the lawn halfway through my eating extravaganza, and afterwards, I went home and didn’t move until the next morning.
If Googa Mooga and the Vendys were siblings, the Vendys would be the hip, sophisticated older sister that knew all the cool places, had the best things, and was basically just really sure of herself and all-around awesome. Of course, there were major differences – the Vendys had a ticket price, meaning the consumables were all-you-can-eat-and-drink, there was a lesser focus on music (though the local acts were great), the venue was smaller, there were less people, and it was a competition for a variation of finalists, so all the vendors were bringing their A-game. Were there lines? Yes, but none were horrific, all moved fairly quickly, and how can you be upset standing in line knowing you are surrounded by so much delicious food and friendly people?
Phil’s Steaks was our first stop of the day, where I sampled a cheesesteak topped with mushrooms, onions, and provolone and fell in love so much that I just had to vote for them for Rookie of the Year… which they won! The food won me over, of course, but Kevin and Mia’s friendly and enthusiastic demeanor couldn’t hurt, either.
I had to stay true and vote for Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls for Best Dessert – here, Neesa Peterson cheerfully serves sno-balls with the Imperial Woodpecker girls! Best Dessert went to Melt Bakery, whose ice cream sandwiches I hadn’t had prior to the Vendys because I’ve been such a devotee of Coolhaus – Coolhaus kicked things up a notch with their ice creams and partnered with Bushmills to bring flavors such as honey whiskey candied bacon ice cream. Truck manager Lisa looks pretty happy about it!
My favorite dish of the day was the Peking duck lumpia from Lumpia Shack (I swear I’m not committing racial favoritism). They also offered pork, adobo chicken, and truffled adobo mushroom. I guess most everyone was down with the lumpia too, because Lumpia Shack went home with the Best Market Vendor Award!
People’s Taste Award went to Cinnamon Snail, a truck I’ve seen often in Union Square but have never visited – I would definitely vote for them for Best Presentation if there had been such an award. I was really impressed with the offerings of the vegan/organic truck and would definitely visit again just for the portobello mushroom carpaccio on top of kale and potatoes.
Piaztlan Authentic Mexican took away the Vendy Cup, serving up Goat, Al Pastor, and Carne Asada tacos along with a wide selection of salsas. The Vendy Cup was the one award that was judged by a panel that included Kate Krader, Eddie Huang (a.k.a the love of my life), Das Racist, Kelly Choi, Julissa Ferreras, and Sara Lipton.
The Most Heroic Vendor award was presented to Bay Ridge halal vendor Sammy Kassem, honored for withstanding immense opposition those in his community who were anti-vendor business owners. Maybe those business owners would change their mind if they tasted his lamb over rice, a dish that I devoured completely. Twice.
Crowd favorite (as I could tell by the long line, and also by the fact that I stood in said line three times) was clearly Kelvin Natural Slush, who served up Sangria and Sparkling Bellini slushes so incredibly amazing that I’m trying to make these at home – luckily, they provided a demo to show how exactly one can do so! Eventually, these slushies ran out and Kelvin put together a lemon-beer slush, which I’m sure kept people happy. I’m kind of surprised this one didn’t win based on the popularity – maybe people were too tipsy to vote for them?
Other snapshots: the guys of Hamza and Medina goof around; Pestle & Mortar boys prepare a lobster and shrimp ceviche; Baby Got Back serves up delicious ribs; Chinese Mirch provides entertainment for the crowd; they also give us some dumplings; Mayhem & Stout serves slow braised sandwiches; and Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs kill the kebab game and I contemplate taking the whole tray and running.
Congratulations to all the winners, and of course a huge thank you to all the vendors for working so hard to bring happiness to our stomachs – you definitely did that for me, and I could probably live off what I consumed at the Vendys for a couple more days. You’re all awesome. Until next year!